Fourteen years after his first practice chanter lesson from his father, Ursa is one of the finest American pipers ever.
In 2015, Ursa traveled to Scotland for his eighth time, performing at the "majors"—the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban and the Northern Meeting in Inverness—an opportunity few pipers ever have.
But his successful musical career began neither in the hushed competition rooms of the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, nor at the Royal Braemar Gathering with the Queen of England in attendance. Rather, it began in his home in Clifton, Maine, United States, at the age of seven. Ursa's father, Peter (a distinguished piper himself) asked Ursa and his brother Simon if they'd like to learn the pipes. The answer was a resounding "yes!," one Ursa has never regretted.
Very fortunate to have received the best instruction from day one, Ursa was lovingly encouraged by family and friends from his first go on the chanter. Being Scottish, his family was quite chuffed at having more pipers in the family. Ursa's grandmother Joan, who was his patron for many years, is a McKim from Renton, part of the Fraser clan.
Once Ursa mastered the basics, he became a student of Donald F. Lindsay, a renowned teacher of piping's
classical music, piobaireachd. Over the years, Donald
fostered Ursa's technically- and musically-rich style of highland piping. Most of all, Donald imparted some of his deep understanding of piobaireachd, passed down to him by Robert Brown and Robert Nicol.
Just after his ninth birthday, Ursa played in his first competition, the Citadel Indoor Games in Charleston, South Carolina. He and his brother took most of the prizes, and the Beckfords returned to Maine ready for more!
Over the next six years, the Beckfords—and later Ursa travelling solo—criss-crossed the United States to compete at highland games. Ursa quickly moved through the amateur ranks of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association (EUSPBA) and, coming full circle, won every prize at the Sandy Jones Invitational, part of the Citadel Indoor Games in Charleston, in February 2011.
That year, Ursa was overall winner almost every day he competed, earning the title of Grade 1 Overall and Piobaireachd Season Champion. In October, Ursa won the William Ross Challenge Targe MSR at the Nicol-Brown Amateur Invitational in Albany, NY, a competition Peter and Donald co-founded years before. The EUSPBA subsequently upgraded Ursa to professional. He is the first piper from Maine ever to earn the distinction.
Ursa was a member of the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band for several years, competing at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
For a professional piper, mastery is measured on the boards of senior competitions in Scotland, where Ursa has established himself as a promising young piper. Ursa's prizes in Scotland include overall winner at Abernethy Highland Games, Cortachy Highland Games, Cowal Highland Gathering B Grade, third in the MacGregor Memorial Piobaireachd Competition twice, 3rd and 5th in the Braemar Gold Medal, and 1st in the Lochaber Gathering B/C MSR.
Now 21, Ursa is a pupil of Dr. Jack Taylor of Aboyne, Scotland. Ursa is a student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where he studies international affairs and economics. Ursa was awarded the Richard Slaton Davis and Norah Deakin Davis Scholarship for his work in philosophy and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in India.
A great lover of the outdoors, Ursa is often hiking, camping, backpacking, canoeing, skiing, running, or cycling. Ursa is an Eagle Scout.